brake pad replacement on Ford Focus 2003

The Ford Focus is a great little run-around car. I was recently given an older 2003 model from my parents who were upgrading to a second car. The only problem it had was the front disc brake pads were starting to run low so its time to replace them.

A good way to check if your brake pads are needing to be replaced is if there is less than 5mm of disk pad material left. You will be able to see this by looking through the wheel spokes.

If you start to hear a grinding noise from your Ford Focus front disc brake then this is an indication that you need to replace your disk pads now. This grinding or squealing noise is caused by a metal arm that will start to rub on the metal disk brake. It acts as an audio indication that your pads are low and need to be replaced.

How to Change Brake Pads on Ford Focus 2003

If you want to watch a video of the whole job then we have included one as well further down the article.

Tools needed to replace the brake pads on a ford focus 2003

Procedure to remove old brake pads

car jack Ford Focus 2003

Start by slightly loosening off each wheel nut on the side you are working on 1/4 turn. This will make it easier to remove each wheel nut once the car is jacked up.

Place the car jack in the correct position and jack up the car. In the case of a Ford Focus 2003, it will be just behind the front wheel under the door where there is a little notch in the metalwork.

Continue to remove all of the 5-wheel nuts and remove the front wheel. I like to place the front wheel under the front of the car. This is more of a safety factor just in case the vehicle rolls off the jack. The car will fall onto the wheel.

Now is the time to use some brake cleaner and spray down the whole caliper setup. Use a rag underneath to catch the brake cleaner fluid and dust residue.

Remove brake calipers

There are 2 bolts that hold the front disk calipers in place, and they are protected by a little plastic dust cap. Use a screwdriver to pull them out. You will now have access to the 2 caliper bolts.

T45 Torx star socket ford focus brake pad removal

To remove these bolts you must use a T45 star socket. Don’t use a Allen key or a hex socket as you will strip out the head of the bolt and then it will need to be drilled out. This will be an expensive job to repair.

Front brake disc bolt T45 torx not Allan key

Take out these two bolts and clean them up with the brake cleaner. You should now be able to swing out the old front disk caliper pads for the Ford focus. Most of the time I just rest the whole setup on top of the front shock assembly.

Now, this next part is a little tricky. To remove the old pads you must first pull out one at a time. Start with the front pad closest to you. It will have a metal retaining ring that needs to be swung out of position on each side.

Noise from front brake pad
If you have noise from Ford Focus front disc pad check if this bracket is touching the disc rotor.

This locks it into the metal caliper assembly. Once the tension has been released to can remove this side pad.

how to change brake pads on ford focus 2003 Un-clip disc pad front caliper

The rear brake caliper pad is simple to remove. Just use a screwdriver to leaver it out of the hole. Use the brake cleaner to fully clean up the exposed caliper. We are now ready to install the new brake pads on the Ford Focus.

At this stage, it is a good idea to inspect your rotors to see if there are any cracks or deep grooves. You may need new rotors if this is the case. Sometimes you can get them ground down and polished up if the groves are not too bad.

How to change brake pads on ford focus 2003 – Installation

Use the large 6-inch G-Clamp to slowly push in the brake slave cylinder ram. I like to do this procedure slowly over a period of a few minutes as we are pushing brake fluid back into the reservoir. Any faster and you could cause a leak.

Use 6 inch G-Clamp to push in brake caliper ram
Screw in slowly

Once the slave cylinder or ram has been fully pushed back you can install the first brake pad into the hole of the ram we just pushed back. I like to push it on with a slight angle as it will be a lot harder if you push it on straight on.

New brake pads replacement procedure for ford focus

You can now slide down the front outside new brake caliper. This will slide down easy into the slot. We are now ready to insert the whole caliper mechanism onto the rotor.

New brake pads in caliper for Ford focus

Now we can install the front caliper disk pad. Slide it down from the top and latch it into position by swinging down the metal retaining clip on each side. We can now place the whole assembly over the rotor and line it up to the bolt holes.

Fully assembled Ford Focus 2003 front brake setup
Don’t forget to clip in the new retaining spring.

Side on the new caliper system onto the disc rotor and line up the holes. Use the T45 Torx socket to screw the bolts back into place and replace the dust covers. You can now install the front wheel and tighten up the 5 wheel nuts.

Lower the jack slowly and tighten up the wheel nuts fully. It’s at this stage that I get back into the car and press down the foot brake a few times this will move the brake caliper piston into the correct position with the disk pad.

You can now do the whole procedure again to the other side. Always replace the brake pads in pairs as you will get both sets in the kit. Never only replace one set.

Old and New Ford Focus 2003 brake disc pads.

Once you have replaced both disk brake pads start the car but do not put it in drive or reverse. Press down on the foot brake again until you feel a lot of pressure you will have to pump the brake a few times.

Now keep the hand brake on and put it into reverse or drive depending on your direction of travel. Move a few meters and make sure the brakes work. You can now let go of the hand brake and drive as normal. Fully test the brakes to make sure you can stop as per normal.


Congratulations on learning how to change brake pads on ford focus 2003. It is great to learn a new skill and you can save heaps of money going to a mechanic.

Replacing the brake pads on a Ford Focus is a very easy task. It should only take around 1/2 hour per side. But budget around 1 1/2 hours if it is the first time doing this job.

Car brakes are a very important safety device. If you have any concerns or questions please speak to an authorized mechanic about your problem. Don’t cut corners and replace all of your brakes as a set.

It is now a good time to do a full car service yourself. Something that many people overlook is the Automatic transmission. You can change the Ford Focus Automatic transmission oil easy using this simple procedure.

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